Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, two of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks, and both captaining first-place teams, will face off against one another on this Thanksgiving Sunday in what may be one of the last must-see first time quarterback match ups of the modern era.
While it marks the first time that the two sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterbacks have squared off as starters, Eric Wilbur of the Boston Globe reminds us that it is not, in fact, the first time the two have faced each other on the gridiron. The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers squared off eight years ago at Lambeau Field in a game that saw the Packers, led by legendary gunslinger Brett Farve, get trounced 35-0 in a game where Farve went 5 of 15, throwing for only 73 yards before an elbow injury forced him to the sideline. His back-up, Aaron Rodgers, played the second half of the game, but fared no better; he went 4-of-12 and threw for only 32 yards.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told the Globe that he was encouraged by some of what he saw in the then 23-year-old Rodgers.
“I think I put him in a tough situation, trying to get out there and throw the ball every time. He made some plays with his feet, and I think you could see his athletic ability. It was a great test for his preparation. Without seeing the film, I thought that he was OK.”
Fans of both teams have plenty of ammunition to argue in favor of their quarterback being the best in the game today. Brady and Rodgers are Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, both are regarded as among the smartest field generals in the NFL, and both have built reputations built on class and excellence. Former NFL running back Merril Hoge, former coach and general manager Phil Savage, and former quarterback Tim Hasselbeck explained to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky that, aside from Brady’s five Super Bowl trips and three wins to Rodgers’ one-and-one, the key difference between the two is Rodgers’ ability to throw the ball deep, his movement and mobility, and his ability to make effective plays out of structure.
NFL Network analyst and former Patriots fullback Heath Evans, while acknowledging to the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian that Aaron Rodgers is completely dialed in this season, also calls Brady the best that’s ever played the game, seems to see the long-awaited face off as a toss-up.
“I’m anxious to see what Matt Patricia and coach Belichick do against Aaron. We saw some limited pressure on Peyton against the Broncos but they still had the ability to confuse him and make him play some bad football. Then, on the other side, let’s see what Dom Capers does to try and stop Brady. They blitz a lot, but unless you can hit Brady or Manning, you don’t beat them with the blitz. We’ll see. It’s going to be fun.”
Rodgers has thrown 30 touchdowns this season with just three interceptions in 11 games and leads the Packers into the game with a 8-3 record, while Brady has thrown 26 touchdowns with just six interceptions and leads the Patriots into the game with a 9-2 record. Each are considered leading MVP candidates, and many feel that this could be a Super Bowl preview.